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Silent Sam and Other Stories of Our Day/The Hot-air Harps


 

THE HOT-AIR HARPS

 

 

THE HOT-AIR HARPS

I

THE excursion barge was waiting at its pier, loaded with a wilted gaiety of white gowns and sticky children, in an atmosphere of perspiring impatience for the arrival of a tugboat that did not come. "I guess they're leavin' us here to melt down," young Barney Maloney said, "so 's the load won't be so heavy to haul." The orchestra of two fiddles and a cornet laid by its instruments and applied itself to its handkerchiefs. "No more ove'tures till the curtain goes up," Barney summed up the situation. "Even the band 's played out."

It was a blazing hot day. And it was the day of the "Dry Dime Dolan Association's Annual Picnic"—a Tammany Irish picnic, chiefly, and therefore one to be enjoyed more in the prospect and the retrospect than it would ever be in the fact. "We 'll think this was fun—the day after to-morrah," Barney said, from his experience.

His mother, his father, his brother Tim, and his brother's "girl," Fanny Menchenoff, were sitting with him in a half circle along the shaded side of the barge, gazing out into the quivering sunlight with expressions that showed them too warm for words. On the pier before them, gangs of sweating laborers unloaded hot sand and paving-blocks and dry hay and dusty rubble, from the barges and canal boats in the neighboring slips. "An' it might 've been somethin' cool," Barney complained, jocularly. "They might 've been unloadin' ice barges." At the foot of the street a row of heat-exhausted horses from a crosstown car line stood under a cotton awning upon which a stable-boy was playing a stream of water from a hose. Barney said: "If that ain't enough to make you wish you was born a horse!"

His brother Tim put in, ill-temperedly: "Aw, cut it out, will you? You talk too much."

Mrs. Maloney interfered placidly: "Youse two 'ud quarrel in yer sleep."

After a moment of smiling reflection, Barney replied, unrepressed: "I guess you 'd think we were quarrelin' if we did n't both snore on the same note."

"Let be!" she said.

She fanned herself with a crumpled newspaper. Her husband tried to polish his forehead dry with a moist "wipe." The brother muttered something that was unintelligible. And Barney winked, with undiscouraged facetiousness, at the girl.

It was for her, of course, that all this strained wit of his had been displayed.

She was a little Polish-American milliner with dark eyes that were large in a small face. She wore long silk gloves, and her dress was an extravagant creation of frills and flounces that seemed to have been designed on the same model as her lace-trimmed hat. It was too fine a costume for such a mere family party, but she had worn it in the expectation of making the excursion alone with the elder brother, coquetting with his dazzled admiration; and, in order to array herself in it, freshly-ironed, she had kept him late for the steamboat in which he had intended to make the trip with the other politicians of the "Dry Dime Dolan Association." Consequently he had had to go on this barge, with the undistinguished horde, and he was still surly from the disappointment. Besides, he was one of the cart-tail orators of the association; he had a speech to deliver, that afternoon, on the Irish question; he was turning over in his mind some phrases of passionate invective, keeping them warm; and Barney's loquacity disturbed his sulky preoccupation.

The girl had received Barney's wink blankly. She glanced aside at Tim's shifting and restless scowl. Then she returned to consider Barney a moment as she passed him with her glance. Their eyes met; and she gave him one of those indescribable looks with which the young women of her training accept the challenge of a flirtation—a look that tempers a calm stare of large pupils with a lurking smile.

It was the first time that she had met any of Tim's family, and she had been studying them all. She had accepted the mother as harmlessly meek, the father as weak and incapable. She had understood Barney's advances, and received them indifferently as the awkward tribute of the young male. If she resolved to encourage them now, it was only because she resented Tim's behavior.

Barney put his hat on the back of his head and regarded her with a bold admiration. "Oh, gee!" he sighed, "but this picnic 's a hot frost!"

She shot a smile at him under the lace fall of her hat. His mother replied, literally, with her usual patient optimism: "We 'll get the more good of ut when we get out whur ut 's cool."

"I could stand it," Barney said, "if some one 'd only encourage me. I 'm not so pretty, but I 'm a nice boy."

The girl laughed, drawing up her glove as if she found her finery less uncomfortably warm. When the whistle of the distant boat split the hot air with three shrill notes of warning to the barge, Barney stood up to see a committeeman in the bow of the approaching tug waving cheerily as it bore down on them. "Well," he said, as he seated himself again, "here they come. We 'll be gettin' Home Rule fer dear ol' Ireland next. How about it, Tim? Think the speech 'll do it?"

"What speech?" The brother, as he turned his head, slanted it—one eyebrow up and one down—to rake Barney with an oblique and dangerous eye. "Don't try to show off, now," he growled. "You ain't funny."

"No, I 'm as solemn as a dead mass." He took the girl into the joke with a twinkling side glance. "It hurts me to see you crackin' yer face that way, though. If you wanted to laugh, what 'd you come to a picnic fer?"

"Aw, ferget it! Tim thrust back his chair. "Come on, Fan." He had been aware of the object of Barney's humor, and he wished to take her away from it, as well as to escape himself.

She kept her eyes fixed on the pier. "Thanks," she said. "I 'm comfor'ble where I am."

Tim expressed his unconcern by tilting his hat down on his forehead contemptuously as he turned away. And she expressed her defiance in a little upward thrust of her small chin as she looked around to see him go.

"Ta-ta!" Barney called after him. The orchestra struck up "Tammany." He beamed at the girl. "Oh joy! Ain't we happy!"

"You seem to be havin' a good time."

"Well, come on in, then," he said. "I don't want it all to myself. I ain't selfish. I 'm gettin' lonesome."

"Yeh young imp," his mother scolded. "Why d' yeh pester yer brother so?"

He clasped his hands behind his head, grinning at her fondly. "I 'm helpin' him to ferget the wrongs of Ireland. You 're all right. You 've got a new silk waist. But Tim 's got nothin' to get gay on—except the promises of Uncle Mike."

This last was a bait cast to his father, who rose to it at once. "Dang little good he 'll get o' thim," he said, bitterly.

"Whist now!" Mrs. Maloney put in. "We 'll none of us get good o' talkin' that way. Hold yer peace."

"I will not," he said. "It 's a free country, an' I 'll talk me mouthful—if I want to."

Barney explained, to the girl: "Uncle Mike 's the Hon'rable Michael Maloney, member o' Congress fer the distric', an' hon'ry vice-president o' the Dry Dimers." He winked at her, as much as to say: "Watch me get a rise out o' th' ol' man."

She turned expectantly to the father.

"Hon'rable nothin'!" he snorted. "'Sheeny Mike'—that 's what I call 'm to his fat face, an' it 's good enough fer him."

He was a thin and withered old Celt, the skin of his face fitted to the bones without the plumpness of any flesh beneath, his lips like some soft leather that had been slit over the toothless aperture of his mouth. He drew them up in a sour pucker of tanned hide. "'Sheeny Mike!' Me own brother!"

"Agh, let be!" his wife said. "We 're all sick o' such like talk as that!"

"Are yeh so!" he cried. "Thin it 's you an' Tim that 'd lick the boots o' the man that put me down."

"'T was him that got yeh yer job on the light."

"Yes—thinkin' he 'd stop me mouth! I know! 'm. I know Mike. 'T was to shut me mouth he did it—nothin' ilse. An' he won't shut it fer all o' that!" The barge had begun to move out from its dock, and the sunlight on the water shone in his eyes. He blinked at it angrily, under the rim of a stiff felt hat that was faded to a yellowish green. "Me stuck out in the water, with the light, like an oold duck on a rock! An' him a congrussman! That 's what he 's done fer me! That me brother Mike. I know 'm. An' I 'll tell what I know. He 'll niver buy me up with none of his gove'mint jobs."

The girl was watching him curiously. His wife had made a gesture of resignation and settled back in her seat.

"Well," Barney egged him on, "he got you out from Ireland, did n't he? If what Tim says 's true, it 's a good place to come from."

The old man turned on him. "I was well enough in Ireland. Why did n't he lave me there?" He caught the girl's interested eyes. "But no!" he cried to her. "He must sind the money fer me passage, an' a letter full o' lies fer to draw me on. I was to come out an' make me for-tune with 'm. An' that 's foorty years ago—an' here I am, five years older than 'm—an' him a congrussman, d' yeh see! He 's got himself made a congrussman, an' he 's got me a job trimmin' a lamp on a rock up the river yander, on a wage that wud n't fill the bowl of his pipe. There 's the sum an' substance of all his boold promises, an' his 'Sind Nick out to me. We 'll make his for-tune!'"

"Take shame!" his wife said. "Yeh 've been at the drink again, er yeh 'd not talk so to a stranger."

He wagged his head at her, with an effect of repeating and insisting on all that he had said. "That 's the talk! That 's the talk that he had to his tongue when he first tried to chate me out o' me partnership in the saloon. 'Faith,' I says, 'an' what 's the drink fer, thin, if it 's not to put in yer mouth?' 'It 's to put in yer poorse,' says he, like a fool. Says I: 'I 'm thinkin',' I says, '’t will be little enough of it 'll be like to get into my poorse,' I says. An' that was the truth of it, fer he was skinnin' the till ev'ry night himself. 'Little enough,' he says, 'unless yeh swally yer poorse first,' he says. An' 't was not long, thin' befoore he toorned me out. Me that 'd woorked up the trade fer 'm, mind yeh! I was but drinkin' fer t' encourage the customers. But no! He took an' toorned me out to dig drains. An' niver a cint 've I had from 'm to this day."

"Have yeh not!" Mrs. Maloney muttered. "Thin many 's the dollar's worth of help yer wife 's had—"

"Niver a cint!" he said. "Fer niver a cint wud I take. Though I was to starve fer it!"

"Why did n't you go into politics yerself," young Barney prodded him. "There 's money in politics. You'd—"

"Did n't I?" He turned to the girl, as if he felt himself on his defense before her. "Whin he was runnin' fer alderman—an' th' others put up oold Diedrichs ag'in' 'm;—was n't I the chairman of the comity, fightin' Mike? An' what did he do, think yeh? He bought up one of our lads that had the buyin' of the drinks fer a rally we was havin', the night befoore th' iliction—an' he had all the beer dosed, so 's the next day ev'ry mother's son of us was too sick fer to go to the polls. An' he won be a big major'ty. He did that! An' thin he boasted that 't was me that dosed the drink fer 'm. An' me bein' his brother, didn't they read me out o' the party entirely! The lyin' scut! 'Yeh fat toad!' I says to 'm. 'Yeh 've rooned me,' I says. 'Yeh 've rooned me!' An' he had so—but divil a bit he cared. 'Yeh 're a most amazin' fine young roon,' he says. 'Yeh better go back to th' oold country,' he says, 'an' set yerself up on a hill where th' ivy 'll grow on yeh,' he says. Such like talk as that! An' him that 'd brought me out to make me for-tune, mind yeh! Mind yeh that, now!… Sorry the day, Mike. Sorry the day!"

He had dropped his voice to a pathetic huskiness, and he blinked as if to keep back tears. Barney saw that he had gone too far with his joke; it was evident that the girl was not finding it amusing. "Say!" he turned to her. "Come 'n' have a lem'nade. They 'll be dancin' down on the groun' floor."

She rose at once.

"We 'll be back," Barney excused himself, cheerfully.

His father, used to these sudden departures of his audience when he would be airing his grievances, showed no resentment—no interest even. The mother, without so much as looking up to see them go, accepted with relief the accustomed companionship of silence that was the genius of her married life.

Barney and the girl made their way along the crowded deck of the barge, through the music, and the odors of picnic baskets, and the games of children who chased one another and screamed. She said: "That 's a great song an' dance he 's got about your uncle."

"Aw, that 's all hot air," Barney replied. "There 's nothin' but kicks in our fam'ly. Did n't you ever hear Tim on the wrongs of Ireland? Th' ol' man ain't one-two-three with him."

She felt that she was involved in relations with a family that she did not understand. Having a Hebraic respect for parents, she was sorry for the father, but she saw that Barney considered him amusing, and she mistook this amusement for contempt.


II

"Well, it 's a crime to tease Tim," he confessed to her, over their lemonade. "It 's stealin' milk from a baby—but he'll make himself sick with this Dry Dime Dolan bus'ness if some one don't stop him."

"I thought you said there was money in politics."

"Not fer Tim. They 're just usin' him fer a spellbinder. They put him up to talk the wrongs of Ireland so 's you won't notice wrongs nearer home. They 're a lot o' grafters, an' he does the grindin' fer them. He might 's well be capper to a con game."

"That 's a swell way to talk about your own brother."

"Oh, well," he laughed, "it's all in the fam'ly. How 're you goin' to cotton to me fer a brother-in-law?"

"Me? I don't know as I want the job."

"I 'll take mine—unless you got a better one to gi' me."

She applied herself to her lemonade, sucking it up through a straw, ignoring him.

"Keep it up," he said. "You 're as pretty as a baby with a bottle."

She tried to keep her mouth set, but with indifferent success.

"You 're an ad fer a soft drink, all right, all right. Look out!"

She had choked on a laugh. She coughed into her handkerchief, falling back in her chair, but she still made no rejoinder.

He rescued the glass from her, and waited, grinning. "Gee, you 're a hard drinker! Did you swally a straw?"

It was then that he caught the change of her expression and looked back to see Tim standing behind him.

Tim said to her, roughly: "Come on, Fan. They 're startin' to dance."

As soon as she could catch her breath, she replied, in a false voice: "I don't want to dance."

"Say," he said, with narrowed eyes, "you can't make a monkey o' me. It 's take it er leave it, see? It 's up to you."

"I don't know what you mean." She straightened her hat.

"Yes, you do. You come with me now, er you don't come at all."

"Oh? Is that so?"

"That 's what I said."

She Had the blood of a Polishwoman in her. "You can do what you like," she said icily.

"Are you comin'?"

"Not if I know it. No." She reached her glass.

He glared at Barney. "That settles it." He swung on his heel and went back to the bar where he had been standing in a line of picnic officials. Barney followed him with his eyes, half amused and half apprehensive.

"Hello! There 's Uncle Mike," Barney said, in an attempt to cover the silence. "He must 'a' missed the boat, too."

The girl did not reply. When he turned, she met him with a blazing scrutiny, and he laughed to ease her indignation.

"Would n't that jar you?" he said. "Tim 's on horseback, eh? D' you care?"

She drank her glass to the dregs. "Not a whole lot." She rose, throwing back her shoulders and settling her belt with arms akimbo, smiling on him brilliantly. "I saw a shady place out at the back."

"This 's where I come in," he said. "Trot me along."

It was the parental opinion that there was a "deal o' the divil" in Barney, and his relations with his more intense brother had always been sardonic. "You don't want to take too much stock in anything Tim ever says when he 's on his ear," he counseled her, as they went. "Rub him th' other way the next time you see him, an' he 'll ferget all about it."

"Will he? Well, I won't."

"No? Goin' to go it by your lonely?"

She nodded, her little jaw squared.

"All right." He grinned audaciously. "I 'll hold your hand, this trip."

"How d' you know I 'll let you?"

"Oh, you know a good thing when you see it."

"You 're kind o' pop'lar with yourself, ain't you?"

"Well, I 'm the hit o' the season. Where 're you goin' to sit?" They stood beside a pile of boxes that held "liquid refreshments" in their racks. There was not a chair vacant. "Here," he said, lifting down a box, "they won't need all these till I start drinkin'. Make yourself at home."

He sat her down, with her back against the pile of boxes. "Gee!" he said, sitting beside her, "you 're a swell dresser fer a picnic. You look as if you 'd been done by one o' those Sixt' Avenue windah-riggers."

She accepted this admiration as the beginning of her revenge on the elder brother. "D' you like it?" she asked, flicking down the ruffles on her bosom.

"Sure I like it—all but those finger mufflers." He referred to her gloves.

"What 's the matter with them?" She spread her hands in her lap.

"They 're in the way. I 'd as soon hold a canvas ham. Ain't they hot?"

She nodded. "Kind o'." She took one off, in a manner that pretended to be innocently curious on the subject, and turned her hand over on her knee, studying it.

He took the hand—imitating her interested manner—scrutinizing it and comparing it with his own cigarette-stained fingers. "That 's a swell little fin," he said. "Gi' me that to take home with me, will you?"

"It don't go alone."

"It don't? They only sell by the pair?"

She nodded, her face coquettishly serious. "I 'm thrown in with them, too."

"All right," he said, putting the hand in his coat pocket. "I 'll take the lot."

She leaned back, smiling at him intimately. "You have n't asked how much it 's worth."

"Gee! I thought you were givin' them to me. What d' you want fer 'em?"

"Oh, lots o' things."

"I could love you a whole lot."

"I 've heard that song before." She withdrew her hand.

"Here, hol' on!" he said, putting it back in the pocket. "That 's mine."

She hinted, demurely: "Well?"

"Well," he said, "let 's see. Board an' keep, eh?"

"What sort o' board?"

"Bread an' cheese an' kisses."

"It takes two to make kisses."

"All right. You can help."

I don't know that I know how."

"I 'll show you." He glanced around, as if preparing to follow up his offer.

She snatched her hand out of his pocket, edging away from him.

"What 's the matter?" he asked, in great surprise.

"Oh, you 're too previous. I 'm not as easy as I look."

"All right." He settled back against the boxes. "You were tryin' to get too much anyway. You 'd be dear at twict the price—that 's what I think. You 're not as pretty as you look. An' you 're second-handed, at that!"

"I 'll smack your face in a minute."

He smacked it himself, with an open hand, impassively. "I don't need you to do that fer me. That 's not such a stunt."

She giggled. "You 're crazy!"

"No, I 'm not. I 'm in love." He sighed lugubriously. "Were y' ever in love? Come on an' be in love with me."

"You 'd make fun o' me, if I was."

"No, I would n't. Jus' try me."

"That 's what I been doin'."

"But you did n't tell me. I did n't know."

"Well, you know now."

"Do I?" He brightened at once. "Say, ain't it swell?"

"D' you like it?"

"Fer your life! Don't you?"

"Uh-huh!" She put her hand back in his pocket, slyly.

He folded his arms, hugging himself. "If y' ever go back on me now," he said, "I 'll get a gun an' blow my hat off. Hello, Pop! Have a chair."

He accepted bis father's sudden appearance as if it had been entirely expected. "Sit down an' save your boots," he said, placing another box. "Been havin' a drink with Uncle Mike?"

The old man blinked his wrinkled eyes morosely. "I 'd as soon drink with the divil himself. Why did n't none o' youse tell me he was aboord?"

"Did n't none of us know. Did he see you?"

He sat down, rheumatically stiff. "That Tim tol' me there was some one below here wanted fer to set me up—an' walked me into him, grinnin' at the bar."

"An' you cocked up your nose an' quit him?"

He spat on the deck. "I did that."

"There 's a good drink gone to waste."

"I want none of his drinks."

"Why did n't you take a cigar then?"

"T' 'ell with 'm. Let 'm lave me be."

"He wants to make it up with you. Tim says he 's talkin' about you half the time." He nudged the girl, secretly. "He says he knows, now, 'at it was all his fault. He says he never got nothin' but the worst of it, at that. Why don't you let up on him? Are you goin' to hound him to his dyin' day?"

He grunted. "Let him lave me be, thin."

"He 's been tryin' to snuggle up to you through Tim fer the last five years. You ought n't to keep poundin' a man when he says he 's had enough. Why can't you ferget it, now, an' help straighten things out?"

The old man pushed up his hat from his forehead with the flat of his thumb. "He got the worst of it, did he? Well, he 'll niver win me over. I c'n tell you that, now. I got nothin' at all fer 'm but contimpt. He c'n go his way, an' I 'll go mine."

Barney rose, with a conspiring wink at the girl. "Excuse me a minute," he said. "I want to pick up that drink Pop dropped."


III

The Honorable Michael Maloney was a large and florid gentleman who bloomed in a white waistcoat with a red geranium in his lapel and a Panama hat on the side of his head. He had been a "gay bucko," as Barney said; and age had brought him the mouth of an old goat, with a long upper lip and a shallow chin clean-shaven between gray whiskers. His eyes were heavy-pouched; his nose was swollen; and yet there was, in his smile, an expression of professional benevolence and good-nature that marked him as "one of the boys" and accounted for his popularity.

He carried that smile like a flag of truce when he came with Tim and Barney to the place where old Nick Maloney and the girl were sitting; and his expression did not change when Nick, humping himself forward with his arms on his knees, refused to notice him. He held the girl's hand while he said genially: "Miss Mench'noff! Well, now, we 're glad to have yeh with us, I 'm sure o' that. It 's a fine day. How 're y' enjoyin' yerself."

She smiled at Barney as she replied: "Pretty good, I guess." And the uncle took his cue from the direction of that smile, to say: "Barney 's the boy to give y' a good time. Eh, Barney? Well, y' always did have a sharp eye fer the gurrls, Barney. How 's yer mother?"

They cut off the father's escape by sitting down in front of him, but he pretended to be unaware of them until the Honorable Michael said: "Well, Nick, don't yeh know me?"

"Oh, I know yeh!" he answered, under his hat.

The uncle smiled amiably at his nephews as he replied: "If yeh knew me as well as I know meself, yeh 'd like me less."

"I like yeh little enough."

"An' I 'm sorry fer that." He nodded, reassuringly to the girl. "We 're gettin' to be too old fer inmities."

Nick flared up: "I suppose yeh think I ought to be thankin' yeh fer gettin' me the job on the light?"

"Why should yeh? It's nothin' to what I ought to 've done fer yeh—if yeh 'd let me. But yeh 've been so dang indipendent!" His voice was politic.

"I wanted nothin' from yeh but to be let alone."

"I know it.… Well, yeh 've had yer way. It 's been a bad bus'ness, an' I 'm glad it 's all done with. If we had our lives to live over again, it might be diff'rent. How 's the wife?"

"She 's well enough," Nick answered sulkily.

"That 's right. Yeh 're lucky to have a good wife an' a fine pair o' boys." He turned to the girl. "I 'm an ol' bachelor meself, but that 's not my fault. None o' the gurrls 'ud have me."

"I 'm sure I don't know why," she said, with a coquettishness that concealed sarcasm.

He smiled a broad smile between his gray whiskers. "I never made it out meself. But then I never had Barney's way with the gurrls. How 's the work, Barney?"

"Oh, all to the good," he said. "Lots o' work, anyway."

"That's right." He had caught Tim's frown. "Lots o' work fer all of us. How 's the speech, Tim?"

Tim studied his knuckles. "It 's all right, I guess."

"Well, if I had your gift, boy, I 'd 've stopped at nothin' short o' the Prisidency." He chuckled. "I 'm a clam at a speech. The best I can say is, 'What 'll yeh have?'" He covered the three men with an inviting smile. "What 'd yeh say to a high ball?" Old Nick glanced up furtively and looked away when he found his brother's eye on him. "Come on, Nick. This 's a holiday. We c'n afford to ferget our troubles."

The old man tried to hide the fact that he was flattered. The Honorable Michael took him by the knee and shook it playfully. "We 'll be in our graves soon. Ferget it, man. Come have a drink."

Barney helped his father to his feet. "Go on, Pop," he coaxed. "Go an' tank up. Get some bubbles in you. This 's a picnic. You 're as flat as milk."

"Well, by the jukes," the father muttered, "I 'm that hot I 'd drink with all hell." One corner of his mouth tried to droop with stubborn ill-temper, but the other twitched with a smile. He shuffled along behind Tim, who followed the Honorable Michael down narrow passageways between the groups of picnic parties.

Barney wagged his head. "There goes Ol' Grievances," he said to the girl. "To-morrah he 'll be tryin' to hang himself fer a traitor."

"Well!" she cried. "Why did he go, anyway? After what he said!"

Barney put her off with a laugh that explained nothing. "Here," he said, slipping his arm behind her. "It makes my back ache to look at you. Leave it be. Sit close an' no one 'll pipe it. Eh? How d' you like youah honey? Ain't I a sweet?"

She tried to reply to him with some dignity, but she had carried the affair too far to be able to retreat. She said, rather wistfully: "You 're makin' fun o' me. I knew you would."

"Jus' tell me that you love me," he replied, "an' I 'll never smile again."

She did not answer him, but she did not move away. She sat gazing out at the shore of Staten Island, over a stretch of water that lay dead in the heat; and her face, in thoughtful repose, showed some dissatisfaction with herself. When she thought of Tim's actions as the cause of her own, she tightened her lips. When she considered the family relations, which the morning had discovered to her, she wrinkled her round forehead in a puzzled frown. She disliked the uncle; and she did not understand how the father could have accepted his advances. She did not understand Barney's part in the affair. She felt a mild contempt for Tim.

Barney yawned behind his hand. "Cheer up," he said. "Tim 'll be back."

She did not reply. And they were sitting, so, in silence, when Tim returned to confront them with a pallor of indignation. Barney rose eagerly to meet him. "Come to claim your bride? Where 's Pop?"

Tim thrust him aside. "Look here," he said, in a low voice to the girl, pointing his finger at her. "You need n't think I 'm goin' to ferget this the way I did las' time. This 's the finish between us, see?"

He paid no attention to Barney's "Sit down, you lobster, an' get busy."

He went on: "You can't play me fer a sucker. I 'm on to you, an' you 're no good." She looked straight ahead of her, ignoring him, but flushing under the eyes. "You 've picked your card, now, an' you 'll stick to it. You need n't come upstairs after me, because I don't want you around. We 're quits. It 's off, see? I 'm done with you." He threw Barney's hand from his arm.

Barney said disgustedly: "Come off! You 're talkin' through your spout."

Tim nodded, furiously calm. "Am I? You 'll see." He turned and shouldered his way through a little circle of the curious who had gathered to the sound of a quarrel.

Barney said to them, as he sat down: "Aw, run away an' sell yer papers." They melted away before his disgusted stare. "He 's an Indian!" he said to the girl.

She was putting on her glove. "What 're you?" she cried. "You 're worse 'n he is—er you would n't 've stood there an' let him say things like that to me. You 're a cheap lot—the whole lot of you Maloneys."

"We are?" He studied her, with an irritating smile.

"Make fun of an ol' man," she said. "That 's your limit, I guess!"

"Say," he laughed, "you 're off your heat. That 's the whole trouble with you. You 're out of your bunch."

"Am I? Well, I 'm goin' to get out o' this bunch fast enough."

"You don't talk Gaelic," he said. "That 's what 's the matter with you. We don't mean what we say—half the time—an' when we do, we 'll take it back just as quick. Me an' Tim, now—"

"I don't want to hear about neither of you."

"Well, you can't play me off against Tim. An' you ought 've known it."

"Aw, you 're a hot-air Harp."

"I 'm a Harp, all right, but you can't string me."

She saw the father returning. "I 've met Harps before, but they were n't your sort. You 're all mouth—you an' your whole fam'ly."

Barney pretended that he had not heard, but he reddened as he turned away. He was sensitive to a criticism that deprived him of any superiority over his family and found him guilty of a family weakness which he thought he despised. He asked, to ignore her: "Buried the hatchet, Pop?"

The old man sat down with a sniff. "I have not! He can't buy me off with two slugs o' B'urbon. The fat toad!"

Barney saw the disgust that deepened in the girl's expression. She summed up her opinion of all the Maloneys in the contemptuous look that she gave him as she rose. She did not speak. She did not need to.

He watched her until she disappeared among the excursionists on the farther side of the barge. He said: "There 's the makin's of a swell batch of trouble, gone sour!"

The father muttered, over one of the Honorable Mike's cigars: "Sheeny Mike! Huh! It 's good enough fer 'm!" And Barney, seeing himself in the same attitude of futilely defying the absent, felt the truth of her criticism of him rankling in his wounded self-respect. A family of hot-air Harps! And he the worst of them, since he had not even Tim's loyalty to his kind.

The thought made him meek. "Well," he said, "she 's well out of it, I guess. Where 's Tim? Back at the bar? Come an' have a drink with us. Pop. It 's on me."


IV

If Fanny Menchenoff thought, then, that she had forever done with the Maloneys, it was because she did not yet understand them. Tim made the most applauded oration of the day; and afterwards, flushed with cheers and congratulations, he came on Fanny sitting alone on the beach. Their reconciliation was fairly complete in fifteen minutes. "You should n't 've said what you did," she wept, "back there on the boat."

"I would n't 've said it if I really meant it," he consoled her. "I did n't care what I said. I was mad."

"Did n't you mean it?"

"No, I did n't. An' it was n't true."

"What did you say it fer, then?"

"I don't know.… Aw, say, Fan," he pleaded, almost in tears himself at her distress, "fergit it. It was n't all my fault. I 'm all right, if you take me right. I 'm not much of a hand with a girl. I ain't like Barney."

"No. Thank the cats!" she said. "You ain't!"

But when they met Barney, he was so warm with pride in his brother's success on the platform, and so humorously meek with her, that she could not find it in her heart to give him so much as an ugly look. At the picnic "spread," to which they all sat down, he chaffed his parents, still, but with an affectionate raillery which the girl did not misunderstand. He waited on them jocularly, and made them comfortable, and smiled across the tablecloth at her with an irresistible "diviltry" that made her gay.

She even discovered that old Nick had the same family pride in the Honorable Michael's success that Barney had in Tim's, though the references to "Sheeny Mike" continued with apparent rancor. It was Tim who enlightened her on that point. It was Tim, too, who got talking of the English, later in the evening, and so far forgot his platform hatred of the oppressor that he spoke of the Irish regiments and the British empire as if the glory of the latter had been the proud work of the former.

She was puzzled.

"They 're queer some ways," she was to tell her shopmate, next day. "You 'd think they were fightin' sometimes when they ain't. I guess they bark worse 'n they bite. You 'd like Barney, Madge. He 's just your style. He 's an awful jollier—an' he teases Tim an' says things about him—but he thinks Tim 's the whole tip, just the same, when you know him. An' say! Don't Tim know how to be sweet when he wants to!" She laughed. "Never mind. I ain't goin' to tell."

If she could have told any more, it might have been to put a tongue to that racial mystery, the charm and contradiction, the appeal and the repulsion, of the kind of Irish whom she had called the "hot-air Harps." Perhaps she was wise to refrain from the attempt.